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How many of your devices include radios?

I’m reading the Mark Ramsey Media blog, which is always good for grand, futuristic proclamations. “We are witnessing the dawn of a new age,” an October 17 post declares: “The rise of radio as a feature.”

“That means ‘radio’ isn’t simply a media category run by media institutions.  It is now a feature of other categories – a feature of brands themselves – brands which are capable of monetizing that feature in the same way traditional broadcasters do – with ads.”

The Ramsey example du jour is Microsoft’s new X-Box music service. But is the idea of radio as a component in something else’s brand really so recent? Sure, the Internet has created new possibilities for radio as one of an array of offerings. But I can think of dozens of older contexts in which the technology hopped a ride onto another gadget’s caboose, or was borrowed to enhance a distinctly different product.

Hi-Fi record players with AM/FM

A vintage hi-fi console.

A vintage hi-fi console [bitsandpieces.us]

In the late 1950s “Hi-Fi” systems swept the market: stereo record players with AM/FM receivers attached. I still remember when my family got one in the early 1960s. “Wow!” my mom shouted as we tuned into a local station. A big draw for these machines were those nice drop-hooks that let you play five or six platters at a time. But Hi-Fis also created huge new audiences for then struggling FM radio stations.

Boom Boxes and Walkmans

Boom boxes!

Boom boxes! [wfmu.org]

Boom boxes arrived in the 1970s; Walkmans in the 1980s. Both quickly appropriated radio into their respective universes. They could play AM/FM radio stations and record them as well onto cassettes. Lots of boom boxes added TV tuners and DVD slots. So you got your audio, your radio, and your video—all in one device.

Clock radios

Radio HatWho invented the clock radio? I don’t know. The wonderful alarm clock blog hashes out the question nicely. It was either Bulova, GE, Emerson, or somebody else (obviously). Clock radios didn’t really take off until the 1950s with the rise of transistors. But the point is the same: radio became a feature in another device.

Let’s face it: in what other technologies haven’t radios shown up? They’re in showers, hats, Hello Kitties, and, of course, cars. Radio Survivor readers are invited to offer more examples. There must be dozens.

Bottom line: radio as a feature—what else is new?



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5 Responses to How many of your devices include radios?

  1. Bob Mason October 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    “Nothing excellent truly disappears from this world.” – attributed to Emerson.

    Just as vinyl has made its recovery, so Walkman-type devices hang-on – with radios built in. I just ordered one over the web – because I still have a stream of cds coming in( from the public library) and I want to listen to them while out without going through all the ripping and storing and moaning. And a radio comes along, which is great, since I’m also rediscovering the joys on listening to radio while waiting for the bus due to the relentless prodding of one M.L. For me, the more I am exposed to new state of the art devices the more pleasure I take in old style ones. I think that’s because anything I have to configure and program is one more diversion and obstacle to listening to the actual music. Life is too short.

  2. Mark Ramsey October 29, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    Good points, but I was making a somewhat different one.

    I would not be foolish enough to argue that radio has never been a piece of somebody else’s product (I was the one proclaiming some years ago, for example, that people don’t buy radios, they buy things that contain them). But my piece is talking about radio as a feature of another BRAND not of another gadget.

    The makers of hi fi equipment never made money off radio’s advertisers. Ditto for all of your other gadget examples.

    Microsoft and Apple et. al. will be doing exactly that.

  3. Matthew Lasar October 29, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    Actually, the makers of hi-fi equipment did make money off of radio advertising, because they were, not infrequently, the owners of radio stations! These would include RCA and radio station owner Westinghouse.

    And guess what product their radio stations hawked over the airwaves? Their AM/FM stereos!

  4. Mark Ramsey October 29, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Matthew, I’m talking about today and the future, not the relatively ancient past of radio equipment manufacturers and the stations they once owned.

  5. Mark Ramsey October 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Although thanks for clarifying….

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